Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2214

Senator MESSNER —My question is addressed to the Minister for Community Services. Does he recall my question some months ago about the concern of professionals about the lack of representation for the psychiatrically disabled on the Disability Advisory Council of Australia? Does the Minister agree that such representation would be valuable in recognising and meeting the needs in the community? Further, in view of the anticipated additional pressure on the Commonwealth to provide services through the handicapped persons assistance program, the home and community care program and the supported accommodation assistance program, can he assure minority groups such as the psychiatrically disabled that these programs will adequately meet their needs?

Senator GRIMES —Yes, I remember the question asked by Senator Messner at that time. I certainly have had representations, particularly from the College of psychiatrists, and groups like that, about lack of representation of the psychiatrically ill on the Disability Advisory Council of Australia. The problem is that we have only a limited number of places on such a body and there are endless numbers of representatives of various groups, including the hearing impaired and others, who claim that they should also be represented on that body, as well as claims at various stages from some of the States and Territories that they were underrepresented. We decided, therefore, to rotate the membership of that Council and, of course, the psychiatrically ill will be under consideration when we make some changes to that Council-I think perhaps in July.

As for ensuring that those with psychiatric illnesses are adequately represented by programs in the home and community care scheme and the supported accommodation assistance program, at the moment both those schemes are picking up primarily existing programs that were funded under those Acts. I have had requests from the State governments in particular to pick up under the home and community care scheme the psychiatrically ill, those who are in acute hospitals who can be discharged earlier if home and community services are available. My reply has been that in the future I would expect and hope that that may happen; but at the moment the home and community care program is primarily aimed at groups such as the aged and the disabled who are already covered by the programs we are picking up. If we suddenly expanded that program to include all the psychiatrically ill, we would end up in an impossible situation in a very short time, whereby those who are already covered would be inadequately covered and there would be a general inadequacy of cover because of the huge ballooning out.

I also remind honourable senators that for years the States have had responsibility for the treatment of the mentally ill. In fact, they have guarded that responsibility very closely. In recent times they have, certainly with my approval and, I believe, the approval of most of us here, aimed at de-institutionalising those who are mentally ill whom they have had in mental hospitals and other institutions. That has been done at considerable cost to the Federal exchequer because we have had to pick up a lot of the costs through our community care programs and through the provision of invalid pensions which otherwise may not have been paid.

I believe that the State governments which take part in such praiseworthy de-institutionalisation programs also have a responsibility to provide the community care which should be available for those whom the States are not putting into institutions or those who are leaving institutions. In my view the States have not done that. In many cases they have diverted the funds which were previously used to care for the psychiatrically ill into other areas which they may think are more politically attractive or more electorally attractive areas.

I do not believe it is the Commonwealth's responsibility to pick up the funding for every program that State governments introduce. For that reason I am not willing to open up the home and community care program in particular for psychiatrically ill patients in the way that some of the States would like. But I am certainly conscious of the need for psychiatrically ill people to be represented in such forums as the Disability Advisory Council of Australia. They will certainly be under consideration when the next appointments are made.

Senator Chipp —I take a point of order, Mr President. I know that Senator Walsh likes to treasure those little bits of paper which he shoves into his drawer marked 'dirt'. I asked for the papers from which he was quoting to be tabled. The Minister has tabled one paper, an extract from Hansard. I am not the slightest bit interested in that. I want to know the other filth that he was reading from and I want him to table all the papers from which he quoted today in answer to that dorothy dix question. I made that very clear when I asked, in accordance with the procedures of the Senate, for those papers to be tabled. I now ask that they be tabled.

Senator Walsh —I was not--

Senator Chipp —Slink back to your cabinet marked 'dirt'.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask the Minister whether he was quoting from documents.

Senator Walsh —I was not quoting from a document. I have a couple of handwritten notes about this and about another question. I am quite happy to table them.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The Minister has tabled the document as requested.